Hunters in Wisconsin will be allowed to kill a total of 130 gray wolves when the hunting season opens in November.
Wisconsin Public Radio notes this is the latest development in an "apparent power struggle" between the DNR under Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and the conservative majority on the DNR policy board. This includes DNR board Chair Fred Prehn, a former Republican Gov. Scott Walker appointee, who has not ceded control of his seat despite his term ending in May for reasons that include wanting to vote on the quota for the fall wolf hunt, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
The DNR said in a news release it considered the "best available information and scientific modeling" plus input from the Wolf Harvest Committee, the DNR board and "many groups and members of the public" to determine this year's quota.
DNR spokesperson Sarah Hoye told the Wisconsin State Journal she is unaware of a time when the DNR has modified a quota the board has set.
Licensed hunters will be allowed to kill 74 wolves, with the DNR saying it will "honor the Ojibwe Tribes' treaty right within the Ceded Territory," allowing tribes to kill 56 wolves.
In past years, the tribes have chosen to protect their share of wolves and not hunt them, the Wisconsin State Journal says.
The DNR will issue 370 licenses, a ratio of five licenses per wolf, through a lottery system, with licenses going on sale Oct. 25, the release said.
This will be Wisconsin's second wolf hunt since the Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in January, making it legal for states to hold wolf hunts again. The DNR had planned to begin holding wolf hunts in November 2021 (Wisconsin state law requires a wolf hunt be held every year), but a Kansas-based hunting group filed a lawsuit demanding one in February.
In just three days in February, hunters killed 218 wolves, exceeding the 119-wolf quota. National Geographic reports hunters killed one-third of the state's wolves during the hunt.
The DNR's announcement Monday comes about two weeks after six Ojibwe tribes filed a lawsuit against the DNR, claiming it violates their treaty rights and is putting an animal they consider sacred in danger.
Last week, the tribes filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the state to halt the hunt, anticipating the DNR would lower the wolf quota. A news release says even if the quota was lowered to 130, that figure has "no grounding in sound biological principles because, in developing the recommended quota, the [DNR] failed to obtain a population estimate of the Wisconsin wolves that are remaining after a rushed hunt held in February."
Prior to the February wolf hunt, the DNR estimated Wisconsin had 1,136 wolves. Wildlife advocacy groups said a second wolf hunt in the same year could lead to the "destruction" of half the state's wolf population and puts the survival of the animal in the state at risk.
The November wolf hunt is also facing a legal challenge by wildlife advocacy groups, including Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife, which calls the 2011 law that requires a mandatory wolf hunt whenever they're not on the endangered species list unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, Prehn has said the quota should be based on the state's current wolf management plan, which sets a management goal of 350 wolves in Wisconsin. Some hunters have also pushed for a higher quota for the upcoming hunt.
Critics say the state's management plan is outdated and not based on current science.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Trump administration removed gray wolves from the federal endangered species list on Jan. 4, 2021, returning management authority to state agencies. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is currently undergoing the process of updating its wolf management plan and has not revealed if a wolf hunt is in the state's future.